One of the strengths of Amsterdam’s student population is their diversity. People of different origins, genders, skin colours, ages, and other aspects that influence their position in society come together at the UvA and HvA, making for an environment with many perspectives and talents. The educational institutions themselves play a hugely important role in this to ensure inclusivity and diversity. It is important that the UvA and HvA are and remain a safe and accessible place where differences between others are respected. Equal opportunities for everyone with a role in higher education and every student must also be created, and representation of marginal groups within higher education must be achieved. We also recognise the importance of diversity, inclusion, and decolonisation in higher education, and want to continue to put it on the agenda. In this way, we hope that the UvA and HvA will not just stop at fine words, but will take action.
While both institutions see diversity and inclusion as important goals, each does have its own flaws. To make this concrete without using a lot of jargon: for example, many subjects at the HvA and UvA still follow an outdated canon in their teaching materials, which has colonial power relations as its foundation. Internship discrimination is a well-known phenomenon: for example, that a student with a migration background is told that there is no place at an internship company, while a fellow student without a migration background is hired there. Student life is more difficult for students with disabilities, as some educational buildings are still not easily accessible for the use of a wheelchair, visually impaired/deaf people, or other disabilities. There are numerous other problems that have come to light, and there will certainly be more that ASVA can address and support students in.
For the diversity inclusion and decolonisation portfolio, it is important that everyone experiences an enjoyable student experience. This includes practical matters, such as inclusive toilets. For instance, we have been busy putting the need for gender-neutral toilets on the agenda within the HvA and the UvA: for instance, there are now gender-neutral toilets in every HvA building. Graduation should also be as inclusive as possible. For instance, we have successfully campaigned that students can graduate with a ceremonial diploma. This means that their dead name will no longer appear on the diploma, but the name by which they feel content and comfortable. Among other things, we are now busy improving accessibility for students with disabilities, and the availability of quiet rooms (prayer rooms) at the institutes.
We’re not sitting still. We are open to new ideas and experiences from students and find them extremely valuable for our work. Be sure to drop us a line with your input via email@example.com